The fantasy genre has become popular the past few years. Once a genre restricted to a few Tolkien fans and literature aficionados, Fantasy become mainstream in a big way, from the mega-popular Harry Potter series capturing the world's attention for a decade, to Twilight, to a host of other popular fantasy books, games, and movies that have been popping up the past few years. The most recent craze is the new Game of Thrones on HBO.
By definition, the epic fantasy is a genre that typically features the use of magic or other supernatural phenomena in the plot, setting, or theme. Magical or mythological creatures often feature, as well as races other than humans, such as elves, dwarves, or goblins.
Fantasy draws a lot from classical mythology. Why?
Because mythology also consists of monsters and creatures and magic. The two lie very close together when it comes to contents and themes. Tolkien borrowed a lot from mythology when he built Middle-Earth, using Nordic, Germanic, and archaic English myths and legends. Even if an author does not want to borrow a whole pantheon or myth, they will tend to borrow the creatures, plots, or heroes instead. It creates a bit of familiarity in the book, and also gives the author the chance to play with some stereotypes too, both of which can make for interesting reading.
In my second book, Shadow in the Flame, I introduce several new characters and plot twists. Of interest is the introduction of witches, and specifically the Dree Dunn der. Why witches? Well, why not!
The most enduring character from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the Wicked Witch of the West. To this day, when one utters the word witch, it is she that comes to mind for so many. And, as with every character in a novel we tend to learn something about ourselves. In Baum’s tale, the witches nature is a volatile and yet somewhat cowardly one. Despite her immense power, she avoids face-to-face contact with her enemies, and is frightened of Dorothy at first when she sees the girl wearing the Silver Shoes. She is also afraid of the dark in Baum's original story for reasons never revealed. For that reason, the Witch never tried to steal the Silver Shoes while Dorothy was sleeping. What was Baum trying to tell us?
Well, simply put – the face of evil is often times masked in cowardice.
In a similar manner, the Dree Dunn der are malevolent creatures, but almost inconsequential to those of strong will and resolve. As I write,
. . . They seemed of normal appearance at first, the three of them. One was young and pretty with long blonde hair, sweet blue eyes and an enchanting smile. A second was a bit older in appearance than the first, with short brown hair and a darker complexion. The last was taller and the oldest of the three. She had long grey hair with striking green eyes. All three wore long black robes and smiles that combined affection with malice. But then there came a fourth, different in its appearance; for the fourth came from the forest, crawling on its belly, thin, and without hair. All along its black robe were worms and other forest insects, putrid creatures that had chewed their way through the clothing and now fed from the flesh of this crawling beast. It joined the other three, propping itself up on its arms, and gave a sinister smile. It wasn’t until the four spoke that the group realized they were witches. Their words were polite and friendly, but quickly changed to torment. It was not simply that their words were evil; their hearts were evil, they were evil, and from such a source nothing but evil could proceed. As they spewed forth their torment their bodies trembled and their heads began to turn to reveal a second face. Slowly and painfully their heads twisted, the sound of bone cracking into bone and breaking until the new face revealed itself. The vision of the four new faces was horrendous as each was dark, blue-skinned, contorted, eyes of pure white, and mouths with cracked black lips with pustules leaking from the corners. From the vile lips came corrupt words . . . these were the Dree Dunn der . . .
In many ways, we take a bit of reality from fantasy; we learn something about ourselves from others, even from the characters we read about. Whether it be the Wicked Witch of the West or the Dree Dunn der, we understand that strength resides in our spirit, and a resolve to do what is right and just.